In an attempt to improve physico-chemical and biological properties of peptide nucleic acids (PNAs), particularly water solubility and cellular uptake, the synthesis of chimeric oligomers consisted of PNA and phosphono-PNA analogues (pPNAs) bearing the four natural nucleobases has been accomplished. To produce these chimeras, pPNA monomers of two types containing N-(2-hydroxyethyl)phosphonoglycine, or N-(2-aminoethyl)phosphonoglycine backbone, were used in conjunction with PNA monomers representing derivatives of N-(2-aminoethyl)glycine, or N-(2-hydroxyethyl)glycine. The oligomers obtained were composed of either PNA and pPNA stretches or alternating PNA and pPNA monomers. The examination of hybridization properties of PNA-pPNA chimeras to DNA and RNA complementary strands in comparison with pure PNAs, and pPNAs as well as DNA-pPNA hybrids and DNA fragments confirmed that these chimeras form stable complexes with complementary DNA and RNA fragments. They were found to be resistant to degradation by nucleases. All these properties together with good solubility in water make PNA-pPNA hybrids promising for further evaluation as potential therapeutic agents.
Peptide nucleic acids (PNA) mimic DNA and RNA by forming complementary duplex structures following Watson-Crick base pairing. A set of reporter compounds that bind to DNA by intercalation are known, but these compounds do not intercalate in PNA/DNA hybrid duplexes. Analysis of the hybrid PNA duplexes requires development of reporter compounds that probe their chemical and physical properties. We prepared a series of anthraquinone (AQ) derivatives that are linked to internal positions of a PNA oligomer. These are the first non-nucleobase functional groups that have been incorporated into a PNA. The resulting PNA(AQ) conjugates form stable hybrids with complementary DNA oligomers. We find that when the AQ groups are covalently bound to PNA that they stabilize the hybrid duplex and are, at least partially, intercalated.
Peptide nucleic acid (PNA) oligomers targeted to guanine quadruplex-forming RNAs can be designed in two different ways. First, complementary cytosine-rich PNAs can hybridize by formation of Watson-Crick base pairs, resulting in hybrid PNA-RNA duplexes. Second, guanine-rich homologous PNAs can hybridize by formation of G-tetrads, resulting in hybrid PNA-RNA quadruplexes. UV thermal denaturation, circular dichroism and fluorescence spectroscopy experiments were used to compare these two recognition modes and revealed 1:1 duplex formation for the complementary PNA and 2:1 (PNA2-RNA) quadruplex formation for the homologous PNA. Both hybrids were very stable and hybridization was observed at low nanomolar concentrations. Hybrid quadruplex formation was equally efficient regardless of the PNA strand polarity, indicating a lack of interaction between the loop nucleobases on the PNA and RNA strands. The implications of this finding on sequence specificity as well as methods to improve affinity are also discussed.
We have created a hybrid i-motif composed of two DNA and two peptide nucleic acid (PNA) strands from an equimolar mixture of a C-rich DNA and analogous PNA sequence. Nano-electrospray ionization mass spectrometry confirmed the formation of a tetrameric species, composed of PNA–DNA heteroduplexes. Thermal denaturation and CD experiments revealed that the structure was held together by C-H+-C base pairs. High resolution NMR spectroscopy confirmed that PNA and DNA form a unique complex comprising five C-H+-C base pairs per heteroduplex. The imino protons are protected from D2O exchange suggesting intercalation of the heteroduplexes as seen in DNA4 i-motifs. FRET established the relative DNA and PNA strand polarities in the hybrid. The DNA strands were arranged antiparallel with respect to one another. The same topology was observed for PNA strands. Fluorescence quenching revealed that both PNA–DNA parallel heteroduplexes are intercalated, such that both DNA strands occupy one of the narrow grooves. H1′–H1′ NOEs show that both heteroduplexes are fully intercalated and that both DNA strands are disposed towards a narrow groove, invoking sugar–sugar interactions as seen in DNA4 i-motifs. The hybrid i-motif shows enhanced thermal stability, intermediate pH dependence and forms at relatively low concentrations making it an ideal nanoscale structural element for pH-based molecular switches. It also serves as a good model system to assess the contribution of sugar–sugar contacts in i-motif tetramerization.
Peptide nucleic acids (PNA) are one of the most widely used synthetic DNA mimics where the four bases are attached to a N-(2-aminoethyl)glycine (aeg) backbone instead of the negative-charged phosphate backbone in DNA. We have developed a chimeric PNA (chiPNA), in which a chiral GNA-like γ3T monomer is incorporated into aegPNA backbone. The base pair opening kinetics of the aegPNA:DNA and chiPNA:DNA hybrid duplexes were studied by NMR hydrogen exchange experiments. This study revealed that the aegPNA:DNA hybrid is much more stable duplex and is less dynamic compared to DNA duplex, meaning that base pairs are opened and reclosed much more slowly. The site-specific incorporation of γ3T monomer in the aegPNA:DNA hybrid can destabilize a specific base pair and its neighbors, maintaining the thermal stabilities and dynamic properties of other base pairs. Our hydrogen exchange study firstly revealed the unique kinetic features of base pairs in the aegPNA:DNA and chiPNA:DNA hybrids, which will provide an insight into the development of methodology for specific DNA recognition using PNA fragments.
Peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) are uncharged analogs of DNA and RNA in which the ribose-phosphate backbone is substituted by a backbone held together by amide bonds. PNAs are interesting as models of alternative genetic systems because they form potentially informational base paired helical structures. A PNA C10 oligomer has been shown to act as template for efficient formation of oligoguanylates from activated guanosine ribonucleotides. In a previous paper we used heterosequences of DNA as templates in sequence-dependent polymerization of PNA dimers. In this paper we show that information can be transferred from PNA to RNA. We describe the reactions of activated mononucleotides on heterosequences of PNA. Adenylic, cytidylic and guanylic acids were incorporated into the products opposite their complement on PNA, although less efficiently than on DNA templates.
The enhanced thermodynamic stability of PNA:DNA and PNA:RNA duplexes compared with DNA:DNA and DNA:RNA duplexes has been attributed in part to the lack of electrostatic repulsion between the uncharged PNA backbone and negatively charged DNA or RNA backbone. However, there are no previously reported studies that systematically evaluate the effect of ionic strength on duplex stability for PNA having a charged backbone. Here we investigate the role of charge repulsion in PNA binding by synthesizing PNA strands having negatively or positively charged side chains, then measuring their duplex stability with DNA or RNA at varying salt concentrations. At low salt concentrations, positively charged PNA binds more strongly to DNA and RNA than does negatively charged PNA. However, at medium to high salt concentrations, this trend is reversed, and negatively charged PNA shows higher affinity for DNA and RNA than does positively charged PNA. These results show that charge screening by counterions in solution enables negatively charged side chains to be incorporated into the PNA backbone without reducing duplex stability with DNA and RNA. This research provides new insight into the role of electrostatics in PNA binding, and demonstrates that introduction of negatively charged side chains is not significantly detrimental to PNA binding affinity at physiological ionic strength. The ability to incorporate negative charge without sacrificing binding affinity is anticipated to enable the development of PNA therapeutics that take advantage of both the inherent benefits of PNA and the multitude of charge-based delivery technologies currently being developed for DNA and RNA.
Peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) are a nonionic DNA/RNA mimic that can recognize complementary sequences by Watson–Crick base–pairing. The neutral PNA backbone facilitates recognition of duplex DNA by strand invasion, suggesting that antigene PNAs (agPNAs) can be important tools for exploring the structure and function of chromosomal DNA inside cells. However, before agPNAs can enter wide use it will be necessary to develop straightforward strategies for introducing them into cells. Here we demonstrate that agPNA–peptide conjugates can target promoter DNA and block progesterone receptor (PR) gene expression inside cells. Thirty–six agPNA–peptide conjugates were synthesized and tested. We observed inhibition of gene expression using cationic peptides containing either arginine or lysine residues, with eight or more cationic amino acids being preferred. Both thirteen and nineteen base agPNA-peptide conjugates were inhibitory. Inhibition was observed in human cancer cell lines expressing either high or low levels of progesterone receptor. Modification of agPNA–peptide conjugates with hydrophobic amino acids or small molecule hydrophobic moities yielded improved potency. Inhibition by agPNAs did not require cationic lipid or any other additive, but adding agents to cell growth media that promote endosomal release caused modest increases in agPNA potency. These data demonstrate that chromosomal DNA is accessible to agPNA–peptide conjugates and that chemical modifications can improve potency.
Peptide Nucleic Acids (PNAs), nucleic acid analogues showing high stability to enzyme degradation and strong affinity and specificity of binding toward DNA and RNA are widely investigated as tools to interfere in gene expression. Several studies have been focused on PNA analogues with modifications on the backbone and bases in the attempt to overcome solubility, uptake and aggregation issues. γ PNAs, PNA derivatives having a substituent in the γ position of the backbone show interesting properties in terms of secondary structure and affinity of binding toward complementary nucleic acids. In this paper we illustrate our results obtained on new analogues, bearing a sulphate in the γ position of the backbone, developed to be more DNA-like in terms of polarity and charge. The synthesis of monomers and oligomers is described. NMR studies on the conformational properties of monomers and studies on the secondary structure of single strands and triplexes are reported. Furthermore the hybrid stability and the effect of mismatches on the stability have also been investigated. Finally, the ability of the new analogue to work as antigene, interfering with the transcription of the ErbB2 gene on a human cell line overexpressing ErbB2 (SKBR3), assessed by FACS and qPCR, is described.
The synthesis and DNA binding properties of bis-PNA (peptide nucleic acid) are reported. Two PNA segments each of seven nucleobases in length were connected in a continuous synthesis via a flexible linker composed of three 8-amino-3,6-dioxaoctanoic acid units. The sequence of the first strand was TCTCTTT (C- to N-terminal), while the second strand was TTTCTCT or TTTJTJT, where J is pseudoisocytosine. These bis-PNAs form triple-stranded complexes of somewhat higher thermal stability than monomeric PNA with complementary oligonucleotides and the thermal melting transition shows very little hysteresis. When the J base is placed in the strand parallel to the DNA complement ('Hoogsteen strand'), the DNA binding was pH independent. The bis-PNAs were also superior to monomeric PNAs for targeting double-stranded DNA by strand invasion.
Peptide nucleic acid (PNA) is a synthetic analogue of DNA that commonly has an N-aminoethlyl-glycine backbone. The crystal structure of two PNA duplexes, one containing eight standard nucleobase pairs (GGCATCGG)2 (pdb: 3MBS), and the other containing the same nucleobase pairs and a central pair of bipyridine ligands (pdb: 3MBU), has been solved with a resolution of 1.2 Å and 1.05 Å, respectively. The non-modified PNA duplex adopts a P-type helical structure s i m i l a r t o that of previously characterized PNAs. The atomic-level resolution of the structures allowed us to observe for the first time specific modes of interaction between the terminal lysines of the PNA and the backbone and nucleobases situated in the vicinity of the lysines, which are considered an important factor in the induction of a preferred handedness in PNA duplexes. These results support the notion that while PNA typically adopts a P-type helical structure, its flexibility is relatively high. For example, the base pair rise in the bipyridine-containing PNA is the largest measured to date in a PNA homoduplex. The two bipyridines are bulged out of the duplex and are aligned parallel to the minor groove of the PNA. In the case of the bipyridine-containing PNA, two bipyridines from adjacent PNA duplexes form a π-stacked pair that relates the duplexes within the crystal. The bulging out of the bipyridines causes bending of the PNA duplex, which is in contrast to the structure previously reported for biphenyl-modified DNA duplexes in solution, where the biphenyls are π-stacking with adjacent nucleobase pairs and adopt an intrahelical geometry [Johar et al., Chem. Eur. J., 2008, 14, 2080]. This difference shows that relatively small perturbations can significantly impact the relative position of nucleobase analogues in nucleic acid duplexes.
PNA structure; X-ray crystallography; nucleic acids; bipyridine; nucleic acid bending
Peptide nucleic acid (PNA) has become an extremely powerful tool in chemistry and biology. Although PNA recognizes single-stranded nucleic acids with exceptionally high affinity and sequence selectivity, there is considerable ongoing effort to further improve properties of PNA for both fundamental science and practical applications. The present paper discusses selected recent studies that improve on cellular uptake and binding of PNA to double-stranded DNA and RNA. The focus is on chemical modifications of PNA's backbone and heterocyclic nucleobases. The paper selects representative recent studies and does not attempt to provide comprehensive coverage of the broad and vibrant field of PNA modification.
The synthesis of N-((N4-(benzoyl)cytosine-1-yl)acetyl)- N -(2-Boc-aminoethyl)glycine (CBz) and the incorporation of this monomer into PNA oligomers are described. A single CBzresidue within a 10mer homopyrimidine PNA is capable of switching the preferred binding mode from a parallel to an antiparallel orientation when targeting a deoxyribonucleotide sequence at neutral pH. The resulting complex has a thermal stability equal to that of the corresponding PNA-DNA duplex, indicative of a strong destabilization of Hoogsteen strand PNA binding due to steric interference by the benzoyl moieties. Accordingly, incorporation of the CBz residue into linked PNAs (bis-PNAs) results in greatly reduced thermal stability of the formed PNA:DNA complexes. Thus, incorporation of the CBz monomer could eliminate the stability bias of triplex-forming sequences in PNA used in hybridization arrays and combinatorial library formats. Furthermore, it is shown that the benzoyl moiety does not severely interfere with Watson-Crick hydrogen bonding, thereby presenting an interesting route for novel cytosine modifications.
The design and the synthesis of a PNA oligomer containing a pyrenyl residue in the backbone were performed. PNA sequence was chosen complementary to a “G rich” target sequence involved in G-quadruplex formation. The pyrenyl unit replaced a nucleobase in the middle of the PNA through covalent linkage to the backbone by a carboxymethyl unit. A systematic study on the binding properties of this probe towards DNA and RNA complementary strands was carried out by UV and fluorescence spectroscopy. UV melting curves indicated that the PNA probe binds more tightly to RNA rather than to DNA. Thermodynamic data obtained by Van't Hoff fitting of the melting curves indicated that, in the case of RNA, a more favorable interaction occurs between the pyrenyl unit and the RNA nucleobases, leading to a very favorable enthalpic contribution.
The fluorescence analysis showed specific quenching of the pyrene emission associated to the formation of the full-match PNA-DNA or PNA-RNA duplexes. Again, this behavior was more evident in the case of RNA, consistently with the stronger interaction of the pyrenyl unit with the complementary strand. In order to study the sequence specificity of the pyrenyl-PNA probe (pyr-PNA), recognition experiments on mismatched DNA and RNA sequences were also performed.
peptide nucleic acid; pyrene; DNA; RNA; fluorescence
DNA nanostructures are ordered oligonucleotide arrangements that have applications for DNA computers, crystallography, diagnostics and material sciences. Peptide nucleic acid (PNA) is a DNA/RNA mimic that offers many advantages for hybridization, but its potential for application in the field of DNA nanotechnology has yet to be thoroughly examined. We report the synthesis and characterization of tethered PNA molecules (bisPNAs) designed to assemble two individual DNA molecules through Watson–Crick base pairing. The spacer regions linking the PNAs were varied in length and contained amino acids with different electrostatic properties. We observed that bisPNAs effectively assembled oligonucleotides that were either the exact length of the PNA or that contained overhanging regions that projected outwards. In contrast, DNA assembly was much less efficient if the oligonucleotides contained overhanging regions that projected inwards. Surprisingly, the length of the spacer region between the PNA sequences did not greatly affect the efficiency of DNA assembly. Reasons for inefficient assembly of inward projecting DNA oligonucleotides include non-sequence-specific intramolecular interactions between the overhanging region of the bisPNA and steric conflicts that complicate simultaneous binding of two inward projecting strands. These results suggest that bisPNA molecules can be used for self-assembling DNA nanostructures provided that the arrangement of the hybridizing DNA oligonucleotides does not interfere with simultaneous hybridization to the bisPNA molecule.
We describe a novel array for accurate and reliable genotyping of human papillomavirus (HPV) using peptide nucleic acid (PNA) probes. In order to exploit the superior hybridization properties of PNA with target HPV DNAs, we developed a novel PNA array (PANArray HPV). PANArray HPV enables the detection and genotyping of HPVs using 32 type-specific PNA capture probes for medically important HPVs. All tested HPV types showed highly unique hybridization patterns with type-specific PNA probes. PNA array results showed stable specificities and sensitivities after up to 13 months of storage at room temperature. Also, we demonstrated the superior specificity, sensitivity, and stability of PNA arrays for HPV genotyping. We compared the genotyping results of the PNA array to sequencing with MY09/11 PCR products derived from 72 clinical samples. The results showed excellent agreement between the PNA array and sequencing, except for samples reflecting multiple infections. The results from the PNA array were compared with those of type-specific PCR when discrepant results occurred owing to multiple infections. The results for the PNA array matched those of type-specific PCR in all cases. Newly developed PNA arrays show excellent specificity and sensitivity and long shelf life. Our results suggest that the PNA array represents a reliable alternative to conventional DNA arrays for HPV genotyping, as well as for diagnostics.
Peptide nucleic acid (PNA) is a DNA mimic in which the nucleobases are linked by an N-(2-aminoethyl) glycine backbone. Here we report that PNA can interact with single-stranded DNA (ssDNA) in a non-sequence-specific fashion. We observed that a 15mer PNA inhibited the ssDNA-stimulated ATPase activity of a bacteriophage T4 helicase, Dda. Surprisingly, when a fluorescein-labeled 15mer PNA was used in binding studies no interaction was observed between PNA and Dda. However, fluorescence polarization did reveal non-sequence-specific interactions between PNA and ssDNA. Thus, the inhibition of ATPase activity of Dda appears to result from depletion of the available ssDNA due to non-Watson–Crick binding of PNA to ssDNA. Inhibition of the ssDNA-stimulated ATPase activity was observed for several PNAs of varying length and sequence. To study the basis for this phenomenon, we examined self-aggregation by PNAs. The 15mer PNA readily self-aggregates to the point of precipitation. Since PNAs are hydrophobic, they aggregate more than DNA or RNA, making the study of this phenomenon essential for understanding the properties of PNA. Non-sequence-specific interactions between PNA and ssDNA were observed at moderate concentrations of PNA, suggesting that such interactions should be considered for antisense and antigene applications.
In the search of facile and efficient methods for cellular delivery of peptide nucleic acids (PNA), we have synthesized PNAs conjugated to oligophosphonates via phosphonate glutamine and bis-phosphonate lysine amino acid derivatives thereby introducing up to twelve phosphonate moieties into a PNA oligomer. This modification of the PNA does not interfere with the nucleic acid target binding affinity based on thermal stability of the PNA/RNA duplexes. When delivered to cultured HeLa pLuc705 cells by Lipofectamine, the PNAs showed dose-dependent nuclear antisense activity in the nanomolar range as inferred from induced luciferase activity as a consequence of pre-mRNA splicing correction by the antisense-PNA. Antisense activity depended on the number of phosphonate moieties and the most potent hexa-bis-phosphonate-PNA showed at least 20-fold higher activity than that of an optimized PNA/DNA hetero-duplex. These results indicate that conjugation of phosphonate moieties to the PNA can dramatically improve cellular delivery mediated by cationic lipids without affecting on the binding affinity and sequence discrimination ability, exhibiting EC50 values down to one nanomolar. Thus the intracellular efficacy of PNA oligomers rival that of siRNA and the results therefore emphasize that provided sufficient in vivo bioavailability of PNA can be achieved these molecules may be developed into potent gene therapeutic drugs.
Peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) are analogs of nucleic acids in which the ribose-phosphate backbone is replaced by a backbone held together by amide bonds. PNAs are interesting as models of alternative genetic systems because they form potentially informational base paired helical structures. Oligocytidylates have been shown to act as templates for formation of longer oligomers of G from PNA G2 dimers. In this paper we show that information can be transferred from DNA to PNA. DNA C4T2C4 is an efficient template for synthesis of PNA G4A2G4 using G2 and A2 units as substrates. The corresponding synthesis of PNA G4C2G4 on DNA C4G2C4 is less efficient. Incorporation of PNA T2 into PNA products on DNA C4A2C4 is the least efficient of the three reactions. These results, obtained using PNA dimers as substrates, parallel those obtained using monomeric activated nucleotides.
A novel method that allows direct analysis of single base mutation by the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is described. The method utilizes the finding that PNAs (peptide nucleic acids) recognize and bind to their complementary nucleic acid sequences with higher thermal stability and specificity than the corresponding deoxyribooligonucleotides and that they cannot function as primers for DNA polymerases. We show that a PNA/DNA complex can effectively block the formation of a PCR product when the PNA is targeted against one of the PCR primer sites. Furthermore, we demonstrate that this blockage allows selective amplification/suppression of target sequences that differ by only one base pair. Finally we show that PNAs can be designed in such a way that blockage can be accomplished when the PNA target sequence is located between the PCR primers.
The recent discovery of Candida dubliniensis as a separate species that traditionally has been identified as Candida albicans has led to the development of a variety of biochemical and molecular methods for the differentiation of these two pathogenic yeasts. rRNA sequences are well-established phylogenetic markers, and probes targeting species-specific rRNA sequences have been used in diagnostic assays for the detection and identification of microorganisms. Peptide nucleic acid (PNA) is a DNA mimic with improved hybridization characteristics, and the neutral backbone of PNA probes offers significant advantages in whole-cell in situ hybridization assays. In this study, we developed PNA probes targeting the rRNAs of C. albicans and C. dubliniensis and applied them to a fluorescence in situ hybridization method (PNA FISH) for differentiation between C. albicans and C. dubliniensis. Liquid cultures were smeared onto microscope slides, heat fixed, and then hybridized for 30 min. Unhybridized PNA probe was removed by washing, and smears were examined by fluorescence microscopy. Evaluation of the PNA FISH method using smears of 79 C. dubliniensis and 70 C. albicans strains showed 100% sensitivity and 100% specificity for both PNA probes. We concluded that PNA FISH is a powerful tool for the differentiation of C. albicans and C. dubliniensis.
To be effective, antisense molecules should be stable in biological fluids, non-toxic, form stable and specific duplexes with target RNAs and readily penetrate through cell membranes without non-specific effects on cell function. We report herein that negatively charged DNA mimics representing chiral analogues of peptide nucleic acids with a constrained trans-4-hydroxy-N-acetylpyrrolidine-2-phosphonate backbone (pHypNAs) meet these criteria. To demonstrate this, we compared silencing potency of these compounds with that of previously evaluated as efficient gene knockdown molecules hetero-oligomers consisting of alternating phosphono-PNA monomers and PNA-like monomers based on trans-4-hydroxy-L-proline (HypNA-pPNAs). Antisense potential of pHypNA mimics was confirmed in a cell-free translation assay with firefly luciferase as well as in a living cell assay with green fluorescent protein. In both cases, the pHypNA antisense oligomers provided a specific knockdown of a target protein production. Confocal microscopy showed that pHypNAs, when transfected into living cells, demonstrated efficient cellular uptake with distribution in the cytosol and nucleus. Also, the high potency of pHypNAs for down-regulation of Ras-like GTPase Ras-dva in Xenopus embryos was demonstrated in comparison with phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers. Therefore, our data suggest that pHypNAs are novel antisense agents with potential widespread in vitro and in vivo applications in basic research involving live cells and intact organisms.
DNA and peptide nucleic acid (PNA) molecular beacons were successfully used to detect rRNA in solution. In addition, PNA molecular beacon hybridizations were found to be useful for the quantification of rRNA: hybridization signals increased in a linear fashion with the 16S rRNA concentrations used in this experiment (between 0.39 and 25 nM) in the presence of 50 nM PNA MB. DNA and PNA molecular beacons were successfully used to detect whole cells in fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) experiments without a wash step. The FISH results with the PNA molecular beacons were superior to those with the DNA molecular beacons: the hybridization kinetics were much faster, the signal-to-noise ratio was much higher, and the specificity was much better for the PNA molecular beacons. Finally, it was demonstrated that the combination of the use of PNA molecular beacons in FISH and flow cytometry makes it possible to rapidly collect quantitative FISH data. Thus, PNA molecular beacons might provide a solution for limitations of traditional FISH methods, such as variable target site accessibility, poor sensitivity for target cells with low rRNA content, background fluorescence, and applications of FISH in microfluidic devices.
Peptide nucleic acids (PNAs) are DNA mimics in which peptide-like linkages are substituted for the phosphodiester backbone. Homopyrimidine PNAs can invade double-stranded DNA containing the homologous sequence by displacing the homopyrimidine strand from the DNA duplex and forming a PNA/DNA/PNA triplex with the complementary homopurine strand. Among biologically interesting targets for triplex-forming PNA are (GAA/CTT)n repeats. Expansion of these repeats results in partial inhibition of transcription in the frataxin gene, 5causing Friedreich’s ataxia. We have studied PNA binding and its effect on T7 RNA polymerase transcription in vitro for short repeats (n=3) and for long repeats (n=39), placed in both possible orientations relative to the T7 promoter such that either the GAA-strand, or the CTT-strand serves as the template for transcription. In all cases PNA bound specifically and efficiently to its target sequence. For the short insert, PNA binding to the template strand caused partial transcription blockage with well-defined sites of RNA product truncation in the region of the PNA-binding sequence, whereas binding to the non-template strand did not block transcription. However, PNA binding to long repeats, whether in the template or the non-template strand, resulted in a dramatic reduction of the amount of full-length transcription product, although in the case of the non-template strand there were no predominant truncation sites. Biological implications of these results are discussed.
Targeting guanine (G) quadruplex structures is an exciting new strategy with potential for controlling gene expression and designing anticancer agents. Guanine-rich peptide nucleic acid (PNA) oligomers bind to homologous DNA and RNA to form hetero-G-quadruplexes but can also bind to complementary cytosine-rich sequences to form heteroduplexes. In this study, we incorporated backbone modifications into G-rich PNAs to improve the selectivity for quadruplex vs duplex formation. Incorporation of abasic sites as well as chiral modifications to the backbone were found to be effective strategies for improving selectivity as shown by UV-melting and surface plasmon resonance measurements. The enhanced selectivity is due primarily to decreased affinity for complementary sequences, since binding to the homologous DNA to form PNA-DNA heteroquadruplexes retains high affinity. The improved selectivity of these PNAs is an important step toward using PNAs for regulating gene expression by G quadruplex formation.